JONESTOWN, Texas - Boat rental companies are having trouble launching their watercrafts because Travis County parks public boat ramps are still closed.
The boat ramp at Jones Brothers Park is the only one that they have access to right now on Lake Travis and, because of that, more people are heading out to Jonestown, creating a bottleneck at the boat ramp.
“At the end of the day, it just doesn’t make sense,” said Blake Diekmann, a boat captain for Wave in Water.
Like a lot of the population, his company shut down when COVID-19 started spreading in the Austin area, but when the governor started reopening businesses, he figured he’d be back on the water soon.
“If we can practice safety and sanitation, we should be allowed to operate like anyone else,” Diekmann said. When he called to check on the parks around Lake Travis, he found out the boat ramps are closed even at county parks that have reopened.
“COVID-19 remains a public threat and, in response to that threat, early on Travis County made the decision to close certain parks and operate our remaining parks in a limited capacity. That meant closing our boat ramps,” said Hector Nieto, spokesman for Travis County.
“Anybody who owns a boat, who doesn’t have their boat on the water already, you really don’t have any access to come out and enjoy the lake,” Diekmann said.
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Instead, Diekmann has been meeting customers at Jones Brothers Park where the boat ramp is open because the park is run by the City of Jonestown. Other companies and locals are doing the same thing.
“So you’ll have a line all the way out around the park, trucks and trailers either coming in to drop a boat or coming in to pick a boat up,” said Diekmann.
That’s creating another issue at the lakefront park in Jonestown, which isn’t big enough to handle the crowds.
“If their goal is to reduce the infection rate, choke pointing the entire mass of Travis County into two or three parks, it’s not gonna do it. You’re going to get an inflation of infection,” Diekmann said.
Travis County said the Parks Department is working on a solution. “They are creating a plan on how we can safely reopen our boat ramps,” said Nieto.
Diekmann isn’t sure how much longer boat rental companies will be willing to wait. “If it continues like this, companies are going to start pulling out of Travis. I know a couple companies that are thinking about doing that already,” Diekmann said.
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